Nava Yoga Newsletter: April 18-24, 2016

Gayatri Mantra:
Om Bhur Bhuvah Swaha, Tat Savitur Varenyam
Bhargo Devasya Dheemahi, Dhiyo Yo Nah Prachodayat

A translation:
We meditate on Ishwara’s glory, who has created the universe, who is fit to be adored, who is the embodiment of knowledge and light, who removes all ignorance, May Ishwara enlighten our intellect (so that we may realize Truth).

As with the Maha-mantra, volumes have been written on this, the so-called Gayatri Mantra. Gayatri indicates a verse of specific length and meter. For this reason, this form is used to meditate on many of the deities we’ve already encountered (e.g., Ganesha, Shiva, Durga, Saraswati, etc.). This particular Gayatri mantra is called the “Mother of the Vedas”, and has been described as one of the most sacred Vedic mantras.

I enjoy this translation because it names the creator as Ishwara (via “Savitur”), which is the broadest term for God that our minds can conceive. This mantra comes from the Rig Veda, the oldest of the Vedic texts, which places strong emphasis on the fire god Agni (or Savitur in this case). Notably, Agni/Savitur/Ishwara is not some distant deity that creates and controls creation; rather, it is the inner fire within each of us that invites us in every moment to our highest potential. Truly, repetition of this mantra moves one from perceiving inside/outside, this/that, solid/liquid/gas, etc. to the embodiment of “I AM”.

I’ve heard that some traditions recite the Gayatri mantra as the first words to a baby and that initiates into monastic orders are initiated via this mantra. For the babe, perhaps it is a final reminder of their true nature before the inevitable onslaught of worldly sensations; for the initiate, it may first be a practice to remember this truth, which may later morph into its embodiment.

••• with a view to return to the practice of self-inquiry, meditation, the breath, etc., this week’s pose is any comfortable posture for your body-mind system: sitting in a chair, on the couch, on the floor, lying down on a bed, in the bath, etc.

Although a straight spine is encouraged in meditative practices, can we simply allow ourselves the freedom to make our home in breath, close the eyes, and be with everything that arises? Now that’s a wonderful practice!

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is a foundational text that describes yoga in its holistic sense, that is, union of the “self” with the “Self”: why it’s necessary, how to practice, the encountered obstacles, and the various stages toward liberation.

The text consists of four chapters or padas: Chapter 1, Samadhi Pada; Chapter 2, Sadhana Pada; Chapter 3, Vibhuti Pada; Chapter 4, Kaivalya Pada.

As we conclude “Mantra of the Week”, we’ll explore selected sutras of Patanjali to broaden our understanding of yoga and, more specifically, evolve our ever-changing practice.

(Chapter 1, Sutra 2)
Yogas chitta-vrtti-nirodhah
Yoga is the cessation of the modifications of the mind.

The word chitta has several meanings depending on whether it’s used in Vedantic philosophy (as simply the subconscious) or as Patanjali does so. In the latter case, chitta refers to the substratum of the mind–its very foundation. Chitta is like the lake on which waves (thoughts) rise and fall. These thought waves are the “vrttis”. When the mind’s modifications are silent, one can perceive the shining Self as the witness of everything that is perceived, much like one can see the bottom of a still and glassy lake early in the morning.


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